Poetry

Poetry

Urban renewal

It wasn’t where we wanted to live
but you have to put down roots to thrive.
Daily we bore the shock of forbearance—
our own and our neighbors’: the noise, the smell!
Be fruitful! We tried. Soil of lead arsenate,
cadmium. We added our detritus,
peel and core: redemption. And now
our mineral prison blooms in this,
the year of our departure: now at last
the berries fruit in blue abundance.
Which goes to show our acts are not our own;
what we make does not belong to us.
At best we fade softly as timothy,
and leave our harvest to the next people.



Learning by heart

The service will be over in ten minutes, but we’re stuck
saying the creed. It’s hot. Our voices
run together, muddled, a swampy stream.
We stick at the sibilants, slogging through, plodding on.

No clarity, except for when we all pause
for the same breath, suck up all the air
in the room, and use it to shape these worn-out words
so many have already spent breath saying.
                                       I believe—

—who was conceived by the Virgin married, I say, a slip
I hope no one heard, but then a man behind me
falters, mumbles something about light (that isn’t in this one)

and I recall saying the Nicene Creed standing
beside one of my college professors
who quietly called the Holy Spirit “She”—

—She has spoken to us through the prophets, I tried saying
once, but then all day, I couldn’t stop thinking about
Her, deep in those quiet conversations, handing over words

to be handed down, the ones we should have
learned by heart by now. How disappointed she must be
we still slip after all this time?

We’re walking along the rickety edge of Babel

trying to learn by heart, without reading,
trying to walk by faith, still slipping.

















Parable

Maker of galaxies, at latest count
Billions! And who can say that our Big Bang
Was not preceded, from your primal fount
By other billions, while the angels sang?
Then shall we take the word of a great Jew,
That one child is more precious in your sight
Than all the rocks in all the worlds you view,
And loyal anima is your delight?
Maker of galaxies, how then weigh out
A small Iraqi eye, terror-suffused,
Against the marvels you have brought about,
Why are your little children so abused?
“Not bread, not miracles, not use of power,”
So your Son said. We must await your hour.



Labors of love

Spring did not officially arrive
until two this afternoon,
or so the weatherspinner had informed us,
so that when, at morning prayer,
my still wintered words were interrupted
by a pair of honking calls,
I laughed aloud
to think that my Canadian neighbors
of several springtimes had beaten nature’s clock
by seven hours and more to seek
their customary lot along the creek
for hatching this year’s brood.

Minutes later—the creed
and half a prayer, no less—
and their first raucous pass to reconnoitre
was followed by the splashdown run,
low now across our deck
and through the clustered trees
onto that quiet pool stretching above the rapids
where, over the next few days, they will be joined,
most likely, by a familiar pair of mallard ducks
who share their taste in shoreline real estate.
Meanwhile a red-tailed hawk
orbits high aloft
in leisurely anticipation.





Emancipation?

Many fields, many treasures, many pearls
(One chosen). Here, fish netted, many kinds,
But singularity is not the point,
The point is, good are kept, and bad destroyed.
Are these the gentle Galilean’s words?
If so, a strange form of gentility:
The angels throw the evil in the fire,
And there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
O, how we twist and turn and rationalize,
Assured Matthew was victim of his time,
And heaven’s kingdom never need be forced,
And “way that leads to life” is easy, smooth.
Shall we amend, then, the Apostles’ Creed:
“To judge the quick and dead”? This we don’t need.